I have great reviews to share about my upcoming picture book, Brave Ballerina!
A little background: Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins is the story of a remarkable dancer who became the first African American prima ballerina to perform with the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951. While never compromising her values and self-worth, she pursued her dreams with a passion in a time of rampant racial discrimination and segregation.
Brave Ballerina has also been named a Junior Library Guild selection! (Woot Woot!) They review thousands of advance copies of books each year and make selections to help libraries throughout the country choose books for their collections.
“This ode to dancer Janet Collins showcases her diverse talents as well as her achievements. ‘These are the costumes / her dear mama made. / Costumes for lessons— / that's how they paid.’ With spare rhymes and ‘The House That Jack Built’ rhythm, the words tell of the ups and downs of Janet Collins' dancing life, from her precocious youth through her arrival as the first African-American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in 1951. Each spread highlights an item or people who had a role in spurring her on to success, from her pointe shoes to her family, from the dance school that turned black dancers away to the day she was accepted in a dance company only to be told she would have to paint her skin white to blend in. Collins danced Spanish and other ethnic styles and finally found a ballet class that welcomed her. ‘This is the dancer / who went back for more / when her tender toes ached / and her muscles felt sore.’ The digital illustrations have the look of pen drawings, rendering a graceful dancer's body with glowing brown skin and a self-possessed face. After the passion and hard work she displayed throughout the story, the final spread feels triumphant: Collins smiles at the audience with roses at her feet on the stage. A celebration of one black woman's achievements that underscores the passion and purpose that the human spirit has to offer. (author's note, sources, websites) (Picture book/biography. 3-8)”
School Library Journal
“PreS-Gr 2–Young dancers will find inspiration in the first picture book biography written about groundbreaking dancer Janet Collins. In tidy four-line stanzas, Meadows tells Collins’s life story, describing her path to stardom as the first black prima ballerina to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. Each page begins in a similar fashion, setting the scene and continuing in rhyming verse. (“This is the audience, lined up in rows, cheering her on as she danced on her toes.”) Though the format is constrictive, there is not an awkward word or rhythm to be found. Collins’s story is told masterfully, with additional background information in an author’s note. Glenn (Mommy’s Khimar) fills each page with the strength and beauty of dance, focusing on the graceful movement of Collins and her emotive expressions. VERDICT This book radiates with the joy of dance. A first purchase for most collections.”
“Told in verse, this picture-book biography of Janet Collins joins a growing number of books highlighting African American ballerinas. Most of the four-line stanzas begin with the words ‘This is’ (‘This is the girl / who danced in the breeze / to the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh, / of towering trees’). The text touches on the discrimination Collins had to overcome in order to realize her dream (‘This is the dancer / who found her way in / but learned she would / have to lighten her skin’) and the acceptance she eventually found: ‘This is the class, / a welcoming place, / that focused on talent / regardless of race.’ Earth-toned illustrations depict the fluid dance movements of ballerinas. The final spread shows Collins on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951, a real triumph. A tribute to a determined woman who, despite being met with resistance, went on to accomplish what she set out to do. An author's note, sources, and further reading materials are appended.”
“Writing in gentle verse that calls to mind “This Is the House that Jack Built,” Meadows introduces Janet Collins, a New Orleans-born ballerina who pursued dance in the 1930s and ’40s. With her family’s support, Collins perseveres despite being told to lighten her dark skin: ‘This is the girl/ with a broken heart./ But she bounced right back/ and made a new start.’ Glenn illustrates in warm yet muted digital art; dynamic spreads show Collins dancing in a red flamenco dress to the sounds of a jazz ensemble. In a final spread, Collins dances at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951—becoming the first African-American prima ballerina to do so. Meadows offers readers an affectionate biographical story that emphasizes her subject’s passion and determination. Ages 4–8”